Sunday, August 22, 2010

Ragnar Relay- A Story of Masters

I turned 40 in April. It couldn't have been too long after that I received an email from an old buddy I met years back during my internship in Marshfield WI. He was inquiring to see if I would be interested in joining himself, along with several others I had met the summer of 1992, in a multi-stage relay from Winona to Minneapolis. I wasn't done reading the email and I already knew my answer. YES!

The Great River Relay, organized by Ragnar Relay events, was an epic event the would cover 193 miles of demanding roadways from Winona to Minneapolis. There are several "classes" a person could participate in and our team would be considered a mens "Masters" aka 0ver 40 years age, class. For anybody who has participated in an event like this you know the excitement I am about to describe. EPIC is one word.

Part of my decision in running this event was the fellow runners. If a person is going to spend the better part of a weekend with 11 other runners he or she better be able to get along. I knew this wouldn't be a problem. Steve, Mike, Mark, Eddie, Scott and Jay have been runners and friends I have known since the early 90's. I've kept in touch with Steve and Mike the most but catching up with the rest was just like jumping back in time and taking off just where we left conversation. The rest of the team consisted of Tom, Perry, Zup, Ole and Greg. All of whom I just met on Friday. Great guys!! Thank you for letting me be part of such a great experience.

I can't stay up and type enough to replay all the excitement and energy that I was exposed to. Here were some highlights:
The race times were staggered and we shared the last starting time with a half-dozen teams or so. We left Winona at 4 PM on Friday and had a mission to be in Minneapolis by noon on Friday. If we did that, we knew we would place well. Keeping skepticism to the side I got ready to lace my shoes, ties my shorts and run like hell! I ran the 2nd, 14th, and 26th leg of the event and my first leg was in the late afternoon heat of 86F! It's been some time since I felt heat like that and running 5:30 miles just wasn't in the cards. I managed to complete the first leg in 5:45's. I was happy. After our van finished up all six legs we jumped ahead to where we would be starting late in the night and tried to get some rest. Try is the key word. I got ten minutes of "rest" and then I had to prepare to run another 8.4 miles with one killer hill. A hill that would last near 2.5 miles was awarding the runners with 2.5 miles of downhill to follow. I would cover that section with an average of 6:01 per mile. Getting a shower after our van completed it's second rotation was key and we were off to Stillwater to rest for the third round. This was where I was hating life. Damn! I was thinking of quitting, sleeping, crying, anything but running. These are times where great team members come through. Tom, the guy who had been running his legs of the race right before me and I would tag off with, kept at me to eat, drink, eat drink. Try something. You need to eat. So I ate some chocolate chip cookies. Four to be exact, and then had half of a banana. As I started to become more alert, Tom kept circling back to the van while giving me the "thumbs up". Then I heard another comment that hit home. Mark, who was lying on the ground with his legs and feet up on the van floor, was doing his own version of self-pitty. He was mumbling something about not being able to get up and do it. "How can I get myself to run another leg?" "I'm so sore!" Then the message was heard. As he slowly, and I mean slowly, got his carcass up from the ground I saw him shake out his shoulders and say, "Ok, stop feeling sorry for yourself. Quit being a pussy. Everyone is tired. You can do this. Get up and get moving." He wasn't talking to me but I heard him loud and clear. He was absolutely right. I can guarantee you that nobody out there after running two legs were not ready or willing to head out for their third round. But you have to do it. That was your commitment to the team. That's what teams do. They win and fail together. Hell yeah Mark! You got me going. I had been saving it for a time like this. I crawled out of the backseat, reached into the cooler and pulled out my one and guessed it. RED BULL! This stuff is magic in times of need. I slammed it and along with the teams support I was ready to take the tag from Tom and push up yet one more hill and pass of the tape to my partner, Mike, for the last time.

We found ourselves in a true race. Three teams kept sharing the lead and we ultimately won with a cushion of about 5 minutes. It sure is unreal to be up all night, running, sweating, laughing, yelling, and finding yourself and two other teams just 7 minutes from each other after 193 miles and just over 20 hours of running.

Our time was unofficially 20 hours 9 minutes and 30 seconds. Good for an average of 6:19 per mile pace. I am so proud to be part of a team that consisted of such a great group of guys. Thank You so much for the experience.

Friday: 6.2 miles
Saturday: 12.3 miles
Sunday: 0 miles

Weeks Total: 52 miles (6 runs)
Years Total: 1715.4 miles


Dave Schuneman said...

Heck yeah!!! I'm stoked for the same personal purgatory coming this weekend! Nice to see you got an opportunity to experience the dark times. There is really no short comparison to get that feeling...

Sean said...

Congrats on the Relay win Greg. I remember back in the day doing the ed fitz. It is a fun but painful way to race.

Sean Mulheron

Perry Dau said...

Thanks for giving it you all!

wildknits said...

Nice job out there Greg! Ran the Great River Relay last year with a wonderful group of women. I was the only master runner on the team (and old enough to be some of my teamies mom) and it was a blast. They were very supportive of each and every runner on our team.

Running in the middle of the night in the middle of nowhere is a bit surreal (and I saw only one other runner on that particular leg, very briefly).

I am not by nature a road racer, so giving it my all - in three races in less than 24 hours - was a new experience.

BTW - our team also won the women's race. The baton sits proudly on my piano - a nice reminder of an awesome weekend and new friends made.

Julie said...

Awesome job Gregg:)